In last month’s bulletin we reported on the build up to the G8 meeting of world leaders in Canada, and the struggle to ensure that abortion provision was included in targets for improving maternal health.

The results of the summit – the Muskoka Initiative for Maternal and Child Health – have now been released. The report details a five-year, $7.3 billion package for improving maternal, newborn and child health and increasing access to reproductive health. G8 countries have pledged US $5 billion of new money over the next 5 years and an additional $2.3 billion has been committed by non-G8 member states and foundations, but the Initiative omits any mention of abortion services.

The Initiative is hailed as “a comprehensive and integrated approach to accelerate progress towards MDGs [Millenium Development Goals] 4 and 5 that will significantly reduce the number of maternal, newborn and under five child deaths in developing countries.” The G8 aims to reduce the under-5 mortality rate by two-thirds, lower the maternal mortality ratio by three-quarters and achieve universal access to reproductive health, all by 2015. Billions more dollars will be needed to even come close to meeting these targets, however.

During the summit protestors on the streets of Toronto were seen carrying banners reading, “Maternal health includes abortion!” but this fact was not recognised anywhere in the Muskoka Initiative. Unsafe abortions account for 13 percent of all maternal deaths worldwide and complications from the 19.7 million unsafe abortions performed annually are a serious public health threat. The Report addresses sexual and reproductive health care and services, but fails to recognise that safe abortion is a critical piece of women’s healthcare access.

However, the fact that the phrase “sexual and reproductive health and rights” even appears in the document, with G8 countries committing to promote their integration “within the broader context of strengthening health systems”, is seen as a cause for celebration among activists.